The Gift

“Every tree and plant in the meadow seemed to be dancing, those which average eyes would see as fixed and still.”

– Rumi

I am aware that as an artist I have been given a great gift for which I am profoundly grateful. The world around me has become animated and alive in a way for which I had no appreciation prior to becoming an artist. Everything now is more than what it seems. It has the potential to become, through the alchemy of art, something new and transcendent.

A great photographer, Minor White, said “One should photograph objects, not only for what they are, but for what else they are.” The mystery and magic occurs when we contemplate what else something is or could become. This is the creative act and makes the world an endlessly fascinating place – we can never exhaust it’s potential.

I didn’t start making art until I was 40 years old – prior to that, a tree was just a tree. Now a tree can be a silent sentinel rising through morning mist with delicate grace, or a solitary beacon of ancient natural wisdom. The tree is a tree, but what else?

The desire to answer this question is the gift I have received.

9 responses to “The Gift

  1. Very touching words, Bob… and what a great quote from Minor White.
    I feel exactly the same as you: my ability to see and feel the world around me (and inside of me too) in many different ways is the most exciting gift I got from art. By me it started as i bought my first photo equipment, I was about 25 years old… before that, for me the tree was not even a tree! Just an abstract structure in my mathematical brain. You can perhaps imagine what a discovery it was then…

    Wonderful photo… your trees photos always are. I wonder if you have a special affinity to trees. Obviously you have, but I mean something like a deeper connection?

  2. I would say, bob, you received even more gifts than that: the gift for memorable words, for instance… you can write a book with a title like this: “An endlessly fascinating” place, illustrated with some of your superb photographs and paintings (I’m not sure how to call them since the technique seems to imply more than painting…)

    Myself, I’ve returned (with no little profit for my soul) to art when I was about 42. I was an “apprentice artist” in my adolescence and then took a “life & family” pause until 42…

  3. Thanks, Danu and Miki, for the kind words. Interesting that both of you either didn’t start out as an artist or came back to it at a later stage of life. Sometimes I wonder if when one starts out in school as an artist, there is a greater potential for burnout or disillusionment – I’ve read that a lot of art school grads leave art soon after because once the support system that art school represents is gone, they lose their way.

    I do seem to like trees – there are lots of them where I live and I find their shapes to be so expressive. Sort of the landscape equivalent of a figure.

  4. I can say without fear of contradiction that I have had my eyes opened since meeting Miki, or, perhaps more accurately, I have learned to view the world through her eyes. It’s like tasting something wonderful for the first time, quite a profound awakening of the visual senses in fact. I like to think it “cultures” the mind – seeing, as you say, so much more in a tree than simply what it seems to be. As Elbert Hubbard, an American writer I believe, once put it “Little minds are interested in the extraordinary, great minds in the commonplace.”

  5. What else can a tree be you ask? I remember looking at a tree once that was blowing heavily in the wind and thinking, wait… maybe the tree is shaking and causing the wind, maybe the trees cause wind. (Not the case obviously, but you asked what a tree could be and that’s what I thought of).

  6. Bob, I think now that most of school arts (excepted when you fall on some really good teacher) are, at most, usefull…But no more. As you (and Miki) know it very well, art is a very individual, very personal business. You either have it or not…School can make you more disciplinate, can save you some time, but it cannot give you “the sun in the gut” (le soleil dans le ventre) Picasso speak of, speaking about himself, Matisse and Cezanne… Or the “my little sensation” the temperament, Cezanne was talking about…

    As for trees: one reason I like living in quebec is exactly the trees… Lots of them, huge forest, mapple trees, fire trees, etc. Before getting here I thought Romania (and especially my native Transylvania) was a “savage” country with a lot of forests and savage life…and I was already regretting that…

    But once here, seeing almost dayly squirells and deer and possums and sconcs (which I like a lot, I don”t know why!? there is one who is passing frecvently before my window, at night; my window is almost at earth level) I “ve seen my error! (and the population is 3 times less here, which is great!) So, my nostalgia for the romanian trees and animals is vain and I do not yearn for it no more…

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